The second round of a World Health Organization “pulse survey” reveals that over one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, substantial disruptions persist, with about 90% of countries still reporting one or more disruptions to essential health services, marking no substantial global change since the first survey conducted in the summer of 2020.
Within countries, however, the magnitude and extent of disruptions has generally decreased.
In 2020, countries reported that, on average, about half of essential health services were disrupted.
In the first 3 months of 2021, however, they reported progress, with just over one third of services now being disrupted.
Countries have been working to mitigate disruptions. Many have now stepped up communications efforts to inform the public about changes to service delivery and provide advice about ways to safely seek health care. They are also triaging to identify and better meet the most urgent patient needs.
More than half the countries consulted say they have recruited additional staff to boost the health workforce; redirected patients to other care facilities; and switched to alternative methods to delivering care, such as providing more home-based services, multi-month prescriptions for treatments, and increasing the use of telemedicine.
In addition, WHO and its partners have been helping countries to adapt their processes so they can better respond to the challenges being placed on their health systems; strengthen primary health care, and advance universal health coverage.
“It is encouraging to see that countries are beginning to build back their essential health services, but much remains to be done,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General, WHO. “The survey highlights the need to intensify efforts and take additional steps to close gaps and strengthen services. It will be especially important to monitor the situation in countries that were struggling to provide health services before the pandemic.”
Readers Bureau, Contributor
Edited by Jesus Chan
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